Consumer Health Digest #20-08

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 23, 2020

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

Rheumatologist found guilty in scheme that falsely diagnosed patients. Following a 25-day trial, a federal jury has found rheumatologist Jorge Zamora-Quezada, M.D., 63, of Mission, Texas guilty for his role in a $325 million health care fraud scheme in which he falsely diagnosed patients with life-long disease and treated them with toxic medications based on the false diagnoses. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, seven counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. His sentencing is scheduled for March 27, 2020. [Texas doctor found guilty for role in $325 million health care fraud scheme involving false diagnoses of life-long diseases. US DOJ Press Release Number 20-41. Jan 15, 2020, updated Jan 22]

Zamora-Quezada operated medical practices throughout South Texas and San Antonio. He traveled to his various offices on his private jet and in his Maserati. The evidence presented at trial indicates that many of his patients, including some as young as 13, suffered physical and emotional harm as a result of the false diagnoses, chemotherapy injections, hours-long intravenous infusions, and other excessive, repetitive and profit-driven medical procedures. The evidence further showed that Zamora-Quezada falsified medical records in an attempt to mislead the grand jury investigation.

Zamora-Quezada's egregious conduct dates back many years. In 2009, the Texas Medical Board and Dr. Zamora-Quezada entered into a two-year agreed order in which he was reprimanded, fined $10,000, required to have his practice monitored, and required to take continuing medical education courses in medical recordkeeping, ethics and appropriate billing and coding. The action was based on Dr. Zamora-Quezada's ordering excessive laboratory tests and imaging studies for multiple patients without adequate justification or documentation. The Board's complaint against him in 2008 alleged multiple actions of substandard care and sexual harassment/unprofessional conduct. Zamora-Quezada has also been involved in many court cases.

FTC attacks false bone and joint claims. The Federal Trade Commission has sued two companies to stop them from continuing to deceive consumers with false claims that their pills are scientifically proven to alleviate joint pain by growing new bone and cartilage. The defendants are Excellent Marketing Results, Inc. (EMR) and its president, Michael McGahee; and ZyCal Bioceuticals and its president James Scaffidi. [FTC acts to stop two companies from making unproven bone and joint claims. FTC press release. Feb 11, 2020] The FTC complaint states:

EMR and Magahe have settled their case by agreeing to a proposed court order under which they are (a) prohibited from making unsubstantiated health claims, (b) must disclose any material relationships between themselves and product endorsers, and (c) must pay the FTC $145,000 within 7 days, which will partially suspend a $3.6 million judgment against them. The FTC is proceeding with litigation against ZyCal and Scaffidi.

NHS England's chief criticizes Goop's Netflix series. While speaking at an academic event in Oxford, Simon Stevens, chief of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, reportedly called out the six-part Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow docuseries on Netflix for spreading misinformation and stated: "Her brand peddles psychic vampire repellent, says chemical sunscreen is a bad idea, and promotes colonic irrigation and DIY coffee enema machines, despite them carrying considerable risks to health." [Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop series on Netflix slammed by NHS chief. BBC News. Jan 30, 2020]

In 2018, the Good Thinking Society filed a complaint about Goop to the U.K.'s National Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Authority that: (a) listed 113 examples of Goop's advertising it says violate the law and (b) said that Goop's product, The Mother Load, marketed to women prior to conception and during pregnancy, listed 110% of the "daily value" of vitamin A for adults and children aged four and above, and 69% of the daily value for pregnant women whereas the NHS Web site recommends that pregnant women "avoid taking supplements that contain vitamin A." [Browne R. Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle firm Goop reported to UK watchdogs over 'potentially dangerous' health advice. CNBC. Oct 29, 2018]

Safe handling of historic quack radiation devices considered. A recent article notes that some early 20th century radiation quackery products are easy to find today and considers the risk their radioactivity poses to collectors. [Dotinga R. The lethal legacy of early 20th-century radiation quackery. Washington Post. Feb 15, 2020]

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This page was posted on February 23, 2020.